Andrea Bargnani's added confidence on the basketball court has been on display for the past few weeks.
Yesterday, as the Raptors prepared for Boston and the gorilla-sized monkey that team represents on the Raptors proverbial backs, Bargnani's comfort level was again on display.
Asked about Kendrick Perkins, his biggest challenge today, Bargnani gave the Celtics big man his proper due, but not too much.
"He's a good player," Bargnani said. "He's strong. He's always after the offensive rebounds. He's tough to guard."
But asked specifically about Perkins' toughness, Bargnani stopped his questioner short.
"I don't know about tough," he said. "I mean he's good, like I said, strong with a big body and definitely a good shot blocker ..."
Bargnani hasn't been willing to give opponents much of anything lately. But he says he doesn't see a big difference in what he is doing on the court, other than feeling more comfortable with this Raptors club that seems to have gelled since that team meeting back in early December in Washington after it took a beating in Atlanta.
"Everybody is playing better. Everybody is doing more," Bargnani said.
As far as he is concerned, the only real personal change is his willingness to let his emotions show a little more than he did in his first three years with the Raptors.
"Probably because I'm more comfortable with the time. It's four years now," Bargnani said of his more frequent celebrations. "It's not easy for me because it's not my nature, but I knew I had to change."
And if that means jumping awkwardly into Chris Bosh's arms as he did Saturday night in Philadelphia after the latter put the Raptors back in charge with a late bucket and foul, then that's just what he'll do.
Bosh is all for it, too.
"It's always good to play with a little emotion, a little fire," Bosh said. "At least that's what people tell me. It gives all of us confidence."
Bosh said Bargnani's improved play is nothing more than a player realizing his full potential.
"I think he is just realizing what he can do," Bosh said. "Sometimes you don't realize what you can do until you actually move your feet and stay in front of somebody. He can block shots and he has been rebounding a lot better. We need him to do that."
Head coach Jay Triano says Bargnani's improved defence is just a matter of him, and the rest of the Raptors for that matter, accepting that they're most effective when they play a team defence.
"I think he is starting to understand, as our whole team is, that not one guy gets beat defensively. All five get beat," Triano said. "I think earlier in the year we were all so worried about our guy and what our guy was going to do. We get caught hugging guys on the weak side and we have to be there to provide help for our teammates."